By: Yvonne Elikplim Harlley-Kanyi |
Water is undoubtedly a mandatory for life, its scarcity kills thousands of people yearly and continues to threaten the health of humans the world over.
The Ho municipality in the Volta Region is faced with that “Save Our Souls” situation with periodic shortage of water in the valley city.
The Volta Regional Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) gave the signal years ago when it started rationing water for the ever growing population. Occasionally, the rationing gets serious with residents combing the municipality for water.
Dangers of Broken Transmission Line
But reports of the Company’s broken transmission lines for, which reason the pipes were shut for over two weeks continue to haunt many with health worries.
The lack of the commodity is pushing residents to visit cesspits in uncompleted buildings, dug outs and abandoned streams in the municipality for water.
Just as years past, the streams came alive. Tordze, Xadome, Ahorlor and Agblenudome, the only surviving streams in the Volta Regional capital are welcoming hundreds of people who throng their banks.
However, the adorable free flowing streams providing refreshing ecosystem are highly polluted and arguably unsafe for human consumption without treatment.
The World Health Organisation defines improved drinking water sources as sources that are protected from outside contamination, particularly from contamination with fecal matter by nature of its construction or active intervention.
Unsafe water is linked to a large number of diseases transmitted by viruses and bacteria–from hepatitis A and B to Typhoid fever and epidemic cholera.
Experts say nutritional status is compromised where people are exposed to high levels of infection due to unsafe and insufficient water supply. Malnutrition levels are worsened by increase in parasitic infestations due to unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation.
A major pollutant of the streams is liquid waste from operators of tie and dye. They discharge waste chemicals used in the production of tie and dye into the streams, which changes the colour of the streams and release pungent smells.
Though effects of the chemicals in the streams are yet to be known, Agriculture Extension experts say the land area where the liquid waste is discharged cannot support plant growth.
Farmers also depend on these streams for water to mix pesticides. Sadly, some of them fetch the water with agrochemical containers polluting the streams with particles of the chemicals.
But perhaps the commonest mode of pollution is by defecating in and around the streams. Many houses are without household toilets in the regional capital. Therefore, streams and forests are notable places some people who do not have toilet in their homes frequent for nature’s call.
For instance, the Kabakaba Hill overlooking the town is said to have been turned into a “mass toilet” for about 80 per cent of 700 people in the Bake-Gblefe Electoral area who do not have household toilets and are not prepared to use public toilets.
Apart from the forest, teens and children reportedly defecate in nearby bushes close to their houses, with the fecal matter washed by rain water into homes and streams. No wonder the municipality continues to record low marks in open defecation with only 6 out of the 112 targeted communities being declared Open Defecation Free since 2012.
Unfortunately, water shortages usually lead to locking of public toilets, further promoting open defecation, with some defecating in polythene bags and throwing them into streams.
Checks indicate that some 192,969 residents of Ho are at risk of drinking polluted water through their taps due to frequent burst of water pipes and many more through the streams.
A major concern is how food vendors get potable water to prepare food for the public. School children most of whom take both breakfast and lunch at school are exposed to unhygienic food and unsafe water during such periods. The tendency of these children not washing their hands after visiting the toilet is high because the taps are not flowing in the schools.
Davi Mansa, a food vendor said she could not help but travel 22 kilometers to River Tordze near Kpetoe (Agotime-Ziope District) to fetch water to cook.
She admitted the water is not hygienic but encouraged herself that the “heat will kill all the germs in it.”
Davi Mansa said that was the only way she could keep her business going and also be able to cater for her four children, two of whom are in tertiary institutions.
Her story perhaps is not different from Amanor (Ama’s Mother) who sells “aliha” (corn drink). She lamented the consistent water shortage in the municipality but refused to say from where she continued to get water for her aliha. Amanor’s case is quite worrying because aliha is taken chilled.
Bad enough, the GWCL says repair works on the broken pipeline will take at least, four months indicating that woes of residents are far from over, something against the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for clean water and sanitation for all people- “ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
The norm now is for people to go to the streams to defecate and bath at dawn while others follow later to fetch the same water in the morning, the effect? Your guess is as good as mine.
Visits to some health facilities in the municipality show that doctors are unable to perform surgeries because there is no water to help in their operations. The situation puts health workers at risk as they need to wash their hands with soap and water after every task- undeniably sanitisers are not 100 per cent reliable. Patients on admission are also unable to use the washrooms when they are pressed.
But nowhere cool. The streets are not spared the stench emanating from gutters playing hosts to refuse, liquid and solid wastes including feces, posing major challenges to efforts of the Ho Municipal Assembly branding of the municipality as the “Oxygen City” of Ghana.
This is why I commend the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Volta chapter’s resolve to wage war on the poor sanitation situation in the region with focus on the Ho Municipality, the eye of the region.
The Association under the distinguished leadership of A.B. Kafui Kanyi chose the theme, “Environmental Cleanliness; Media as Vanguards, Don’t Drop That Litter” for its 3rd Media Awards.
Journalists in Volta and Oti are expected to look out for insanitary conditions in the regions and alert authorities for redress.
The campaign seeks to among others, get Ho which was once celebrated as the cleanest city in the country back to its glory.
What Can We Do?
It is therefore imperative that the campaign against open defecation is stepped up. Vigorous triggering of communities is very necessary to control the situation with assembly members encouraged to get involved and own the campaign.
Planting of trees should be encouraged, especially along the streams to preserve them and people discouraged from defecating and dumping refuse in them.
Ho is on sanitation time bomb and need I say proper water preservation and judicious use of water is key to avoid the use of unsafe water with its attendant health threats.
Health inspections of public establishments such as schools and hospitals and regular supply of water to them by the GWCL during this period of water crisis is vital.
NB: The writer is a Senior Information Officer with the Information Services Department